Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Day in Heaven

My mom-in-law and I spent the day at the Bungalow Heaven Home Tour. There were 7 houses on display today, each an inspiration to the commitment of the individual homeowners and the power of organized, neighborhood activism. From the Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association's web site: Bungalow Heaven Landmark District is a rare and mostly intact collection of over 800 homes built from the turn-of-the-century through the 1930s.

Again, from BHNA web site: Because of the great number and rich variety of early 20th Century homes that still exist in this neighborhood, city architectural and historic surveyors in the 1980s nicknamed it Bungalow Heaven. The name became official in 1989 when it was designated as a city Landmark District -- the first city Landmark District in Pasadena. Attaining Landmark District status included development and approval of a neighborhood Conservation Plan designed "to assist homeowners . . . with restoration, alteration or additions, so that the historic and architectural qualities of the District are maintained and preserved."

The stewards of all these homes have done a remarkable job in restoring and preserving the historical character of their lovely little homes.
I admire them. I envy them. I simply could not do it myself.

I have always said that it is not our mission to restore our 1909 Craftsman. I only want to respect the character of the home. When we moved in, over 80 years of rental-dom left our house stripped of any historical character it may once have had. And we simply do not have the patience or the resources to bring it back, piece by piece.

I cannot have the missing built-ins rebuilt. I do not see myself with the cute little kitchen cabinets, all painted white. And I cannot live with Stickley or Stickley reproductions. It’s just not in me.

Those homes are beautiful. The antiques are lovely. They are just not for me.

There is a coziness, a modesty, a humility to these homes. They are balanced and tranquil and in the best possible way – they lack drama. And that is just not like me – or the me I want to be.

And I feel a little guilty. It’s like I’m not trying hard enough. Why shouldn’t I be willing to live with a vintage stove? Others do. And why must I have a dishwasher at this stage of my life? I haven’t had one before in all the years that I was renting. Why must I insist on having one now?

I don’t have a good answer, other than to say it’s just not me. But still, I feel guilty. Maybe that’s what a glimpse of Heaven is meant to do.

K's M & I go to the BHNA Home Tour

This morning, I picked up the M-in-law bright and early (early for me) to whisk her off to Pasadena for the Bungalow Heaven Home Tour.

Here's the M-in-law, enjoying some precious shade in front of a lovely (and large) Craftsman.

She's wondering when her son's house will look like this.

The final house behind her at the end of a long, hot day.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

And the Last Window is In!!!

Lured by the promise of pizza and beer, today we drew a good number of male friends to assist with the installation of the last and biggest and heaviest of the windows.

On Friday, K did the prep work - outside and in

The view seems almost too good to obscure with a window

The gents wait patiently for instructions

It's in, but they can't let go yet.

K shows off his Arabesque en Ladder . . .

. . . and smiles for the camera, all while directing the gang.

and that's it! (there are those ladders again!)

from within

Thanks, guys!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Speaking of Earth Day (and you know you were)

Why does a receipt from Lowe's for a single item ($10.95) take almost two feet of paper?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Another Weekend Means 2 More Windows!

The two windows in the living room are in.

Ecch! Here's the ugly thing that was there before.

On Saturday, K prepared the first space to receive its replacement;

And on Sunday, he worked on the second space.

This is the old window that faced the porch. It'll probably take a trip to the Habitat for Humanity store in Pasadena.

View of the two empty spaces from the porch.

From the living room.
How many ladders do we have?

With a helping hand from a friend on Sunday, the two new windows were in!

The new side window

The new front window

The space left by the former front window wasn't exactly square;

The kitten imagines her view of the squirrels can only get better.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More About the Devil I Know

Earthquakes were different for me when I rented. Since buying our house, we haven’t yet had one big enough to test that theory, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.

The Northridge quake was huge. We were jolted awake; sprang out of bed and held on to a door frame until the chaos came to an end. Then we went back to sleep. "You did what!?" was a common reaction. We went back to sleep because the power was out; there were no lights, no television. What were we supposed to do? Sit in the car and listen to the news? Might as well put my Olympic-sized talent for sleep to good use.

In the morning, we went out for breakfast to the only restaurant in West Hollywood that remained open.

We lost some glassware and I think some crystal that had been left out from the previous night’s entertaining. No biggie. We were renters. Our apartment wasn’t one of those on the block to be condemned. We were grateful for that and moved on with our lives.

That was 14 years ago. Today, I’m not sure I’ll be so sanguine about the next one. Even if we came through ok, I’m sure I would worry about something in the house, the foundation, the framework, the tile. "Please, don’t make us have to re-do the bathroom tile!"

It’s different when you own. Now, every little shimmy gives me pause.

At least our chimney’s already down. A lot of chimneys were felled by the Northridge quake. We had a recent fireplace/chimney-ectomy. More about that another day. Briefly, they both had to be euthanized.

Now the old fireplace and chimney are just a big pile of bricks on the side of the house.

I might miss them more if somebody hadn’t painted the fireplace bricks bright red.

But I won’t worry about anything today. I’ve got water in the basement and comfy shoes in the car. Today’s weather is cool and clear and the ground is still - so far.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Better the Devil You Know

Three days ago, this headline appeared in the Los Angeles Times:
Scientists: Big Quake Likely in California

Which is little like saying:

Bartenders: Heavy Drinking Likely on New Year's Eve


But then today, we had this headline:
5.2 Earthquake Shakes Up Midwest


You always hear stories about how Californians are not prepared for The Big One. K and I have done what we can. We have extra supplies of bottled water, canned food and plenty of cat food. Of course, it's all in the basement, so if that collapses, we're out of luck. Yes, we have the rare California basement. Relatively rare. I think its an advantage of the house's age. Yay, more storage!

In addition to food and water, we have $1 bills on hand (for when the ATMs all shut down). We keep shoes by the bed. Actually, I keep plenty of shoes by the bed. You never know. And, I keep walking shoes in the car.

And, we’ve had our foundation reinforced. Maybe I’ll have K blog about that one day. He loves to show off the extra-supported cripple walls. I don't know much about the process because whenever K gives the tour, I always fixate on the very un-comforting name - cripple walls.

And yes, there are flashlights but I can never find one when I want one. Their whereabouts seems to be a secret K likes to keep to himself. Fine.

But my greatest comfort lies in knowing that we live within spitting distance of the Wilshire fault and the house has managed to survive for 99 years, so far. We all take comfort where we can. I don't like the idea of the Big One but no one I know worries about it.

I was in the Midwest once - for a weekend. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I started worrying about tornadoes. I was in Nebraska and I thought it as brown and flat as a Triscuit. A perfect twister breeding ground. My hotel room was on the 13th floor and I was constantly looking out the window.

I had a aunt who lived in Texas with a special obsession with tornadoes. She had a cellar. I remember it as dark and there were always spiders. Faced with a tornado or a dark room full of spiders, I'm not sure which I'd choose. I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

Tornado attacks seem personal, directed. Not like earthquakes. Earthquakes are democratic. When they hit, they hit everybody. Not just the few. Not just the trailer parks. Earthquakes spread their destruction around. Tornadoes destroy like a laser beam. And they have a season! No thanks.

So I imagine those people in Illinois were pretty surprised this morning. I'm sure many were frightened. As frightened as I would be to see a tornado roaring up Sunset Blvd.

But lucky me, I have a basement.

So which natural disaster most concerns you? And are you prepared?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Yikes! Better Get Those Stimulus Checks Out!

. . . and then this afternoon, the main story was this:

99-Cent Store Cooking

Et nobis?

These were the top two news stories on Yahoo! this morning:

When You Should Expect Your Tax Rebate Check


Celebs Take A Spill On Dancing With The Stars

Can anyone say “Bread and Circuses?”

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hot Enough?

I’ve heard people say that Los Angeles has no seasons. Those people have never lived in Los Angeles.

We have seasons.

We have Awards Season

We have the Bowl Season

We have Fire Season

and we have the Holiday Shopping Season

And in between each season there are subtle changes in weather.

Or not so subtle.

For example, last Friday was pleasantly perfect. Yesterday it was ridiculously hot, somewhere in the 90’s. And as I type this it is 93 degrees outside.

And it’s only mid-April.

Of course, as soon as we take the comforter off the bed, the nighttime temperature will drop by 20 degrees. It’s a little game we play with the gods every year. They always win.

I’ve started taking more frequent walks in my neighborhood. The problem is that I am not an early riser and by the time I manage to drag my lazy self out onto the pavement it is already up into the high 80’s.

Oooh, but what a pleasure it is to return to my cool, cool house. Way too many trees shade us on our eastern side but they are much appreciated on these days. And all the insulation recently stuffed into the walls and into the attic will really make a difference this summer, otherwise known as Hollywood Bowl Season.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm not a Fan of the Turbine Fan

K and I were talking about the whole house fan thing and why we don’t need one of those turbine-like fans on our roof. Apparently, back in 1909, houses were built with attics that were vented on two sides, allowing air to move freely. So air is drawn up into our attic and hot air is moved out through the open attic. Later, homes were made with sealed attics, thus necessitating the installation of the turbine fan.

I am in no way endorsing John McCaine, but sometimes older is better. And sometimes, way older is way better. I was fascinated by an article about sustainability in this month’s Dwell. (yes, I live in a Craftsman but with fantasies of a Modern.)

The article mentioned Windcatchers. I’m a theatre geek, not an engineering geek; I understand nothing about how anything works and I am rarely curious about the mechanics of things.

But I have to say, this Windcatcher thing was fascinating! The Windcatcher is a method of cooling used in ancient Persia. It's basically a ventilation shaft that takes advantage of natural air flow to control interior temperatures.

Wikipedia does a good job of explaining the concept here. But the May issue of Dwell, gives a good explanation without dwelling on the details, in an article on The Lighthouse, a model for sustainable architecture in the London area.

The system doesn't work in all environments. The conditions have to be right for air movement. But it did make me wonder why such simple and low tech temperature control methods would be abandoned in 20th century architecture. Was it all a conspiracy to sell turbine fans and air conditioning units?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another Window! We're on a Roll!

As you'll recall, when we started, the kitchen window looked like this:

And yes, that is what my cabinets and counter top looked like. But I take responsibility for the color. Just a test.

This afternoon, it looked like this:

With a view like that, why would we even think of ordering opaque glass?

Here's the new Pella, ready and waiting for service

Because the new window is not as wide as the old one, a bit of framing on the side was required (it's because of the cows that we needed a smaller window. It will all make sense later. Trust me.)

The new window goes in . . .

A couple of pieces of plywood cover the new framing until drywall can be applied (oh no! not more dust!)

And the days of louvered windows letting dirt and dust into my kitchen are gone forever!

And in case you're wondering about the kitten, she returned from her bath more beautiful than ever:

But still not willing to stand still and pose for a nice, clear photograph:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Window! Woo Hoo!

The 3 windows from Lowe's arrived on Thursday. K dragged them up all 17 steps from the street and one of them was put into place on Saturday.

This was the window space in the library back in November when the demolition began. I don't think I have a picture from prior to this. But believe me, it was not a pretty sight. The window was another ratty louvered one, with an a/c unit at the bottom that didn't quite fit - so they made up the difference with a board.

Here's the same space with the new drywall. Contrary to appearances, the ladder is not a permanent fixture.

K installs flashing.

This beauty awaits her debut.

I made a quick trip to Trader Joe's. By the time I returned, it was in!


Grilles and screens are still in the box. Next up, the side-facing window for the living room and a window for the kitchen. We expect the two special windows that are coming directly from Pella to arrive this week.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kicking Up Dust

I've spent the past 4 days cleaning construction dust off of everything. It's not like it's such a big house but I'm very slow at cleaning and everything needed a wipedown, even the soles of all my shoes. And kitty doesn't know it yet, but she has an appointment for a bath on Sunday.

If you think she looks mad here, just wait until Sunday.

But the good news is that the worst has passed. The walls are all primed and ready for the next step. Several of the new windows have arrived and are waiting to be picked up.

Why were these louvered windows ever invented in the first place?

The glass block is up in the back entryway.

Safe from the prying eyes of the 2nd story tenants next door.

The fireplace is in and just waiting for a new, more curvaceous vent. The original straight one didn't reach the roof.

This pic is without the vent parts in place. The wooden box to the right is where the whole house fan will vent while providing a nice high perch for kitty.

The whole house fan is in. We just need to paint the ugly white vent that came with it.

Fan exposed

Fan with ugly vent

And the bottom step of the stairs no longer extends into the doorway of the bedroom!

The bottom step used to overlap the doorway by about 4 inches.

And, great news, K scored on a pair of beautiful, mahogany pocket doors! He found them at Santa Fe Wrecking Company and they're in excellent condition. That means no stripping, staining or sanding (for this project at least.)

Pic is door on it's side.

The doors were salvaged from a Craftsman in Pasadena that was torn down to build condos. Sad. But we're happy we can give them a good home.

And speaking of Pasadena, is anyone going to the Bungalow Heaven Home Tour on April 27th?